It is Wednesday morning and I should be at work right now. Forty minutes away from me my classroom is full of seven students and a substitute teacher in my place. Where am I? At home, seated at my dining table. The window behind me is open and the first of this year’s spring breezes blows through my hair that is still wet from a shower. The birds are singing. The sun is shining. My hands effortlessly type as my body sits here, weak after being in bed for two full days.
Sunday night I sat in my small group asking for prayer for the week ahead. I had so much to do, so many things on my shoulders, decisions to make, and emotions attached. I didn’t know how I was going to do it all. They prayed for me and that night I went to bed assured that the Lord would provide what I needed to do the things required of me.
Then around one o’clock in the morning, I woke up vomiting. Stomach viruses do not pause to see if it is a convenient time to infect their victim, nor do they provide much warning. I went from feeling absolutely fine when I crawled into bed to being unable to roll over without violently throwing up in a short two hours. When the sun began to peak through my curtains on Monday morning there was so much to do and all I was capable of was lying perfectly still as I waited for the next wave of nausea to pass. This was not part of the plan. This was not the week to be sick in bed. I had so much to do.
There’s nothing like a stomach bug to remind you how out of control you truly are.
As I went back and forth from restless sleep to being sick, I was laden with guilt. I should be at work. I should answer that email. I should fold my laundry. I should type that newsletter. I should be up, doing something, anything. The guilt turned into anxiety. What would my boss think of me missing so many days of work when we are already short staffed? What would my family think about me leaving so many of my responsibilities undone as I lay in bed? What would my friends think of me taking so long to answer emails or texts that were slowly piling up? What would my piano students’ parents say when I had to cancel their lessons the week before competitions? I was letting everyone down and there was no way to avoid it. I was physically incapable of doing anything but laying in bed and as I sat alone with my thoughts, the deepest fear of my heart crept to my mind: they won’t really love me if I let them all down.
I’ve recently been talking with a lady at our church about my struggles to rest in the surety of God’s love for me. I know in my head that His love for me is not based on my own merit, but practically speaking, I often live like an orphan–one who does not have a Father who loves her with unconditional love. I often slip into living as though God’s love for me is dependent on what I can do for Him. It is so contrary to my nature to accept His love as an unmerited gift. I want to earn it and my pride is incapable of accepting my own inability to do so. This breakdown in my thinking has cropped up in other relationships. Regardless of what my mind knows, my heart operates under the assumption that if I cannot contribute what they want or need, people cannot and will not truly love me.
When you are in bed for two days only able to rise in order to lose the contents of your stomach, this thinking can lead to deep despair. I couldn’t sleep even when my stomach was peaceful because my mind kept drifting to each person I was letting down, fearing what this would do to our relationship. I can’t remember the last time I felt so paralyzed. I wanted to be loved and there was no way to earn it.
The good news is that my misconceptions do not alter reality. The fact is, I am loved, whether I am able to believe it or not.
My boss sent me a message asking how she could pray for me and assuring me that things were under control at work. She wanted me to make sure I was taking proper time to heal. My coworker told me this was a gift from God–rest in the middle of a turbulent season. My Mom bought me flowers and continually reminded me that getting sick is part of being human, and those limitations are not failures. Texts from friends came in assuring me of God’s love for me and praying for recovery. My students sent me videos and pictures saying they missed me. When all I could do was lay in my bed feeling utterly unlovable, they loved me.
To be entirely honest, it was not easy to accept their love when I felt I could not repay them.
This illuminated a great flaw in my heart’s understanding of love. Love is not earned. Love is given. Perhaps one of the hardest realties of God for me to believe is that He really does love me. God’s Word tells me it is true, therefore I am called to believe it, no matter how much my own understanding stands in the way. My debt has been paid. The work is done. There is no need for me to earn the love of God. He has already chosen to give it. Even when all I can do is lay in bed, His love for me is steadfast and sure. It does not hinge on my contributions or performance. By His grace, the love of His people for me is the same. Those who truly love me, do not love me for what I can do. They love me because He has loved them, and this mysterious, undeserved love is now in their nature to pour out. When they love me, it magnifies Him.
My body is recovering and Lord willing, tomorrow I will be back at work. But the truth remains that even if all I could do for the rest of my life was lay in bed, I would still be loved, whether I was able to believe it or not. Because the love of God towards me is not based on my works, nor on my understanding, but on His choosing to love me. He demonstrated His love for me by sending His Son to die in my place when I did not deserve it. (Rom. 5:6-8) Now I am His child. I am not an orphan. I am truly, deeply, and undeservingly loved.
Dear believer, the same is true for you.
One thought on “On Being Loved”
This one resonated hard, my friend. It’s a lesson I’m in the thick of re-learning myself as well. For some reason, sickness tends to re-hammer this into my brain as well. It’s something about being brought to the end of yourself, becoming acquainted with the depths of your own insufficiency; something about that magnifies the greatness of our un-changing Father who loves us with a steady, unwavering love simply ’cause He chooses to. All praise to His Name. Thanks muchly for sharing, Madelyn 🖤